Ai Weiwei exhibition at Blenheim Palace: Our UK publicity assistant investigates!

Visitors can expect to experience something different this autumn at Blenheim Palace. Tradition meets modernity as the 18th century baroque architecture of Blenheim, the birthplace of wartime British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, is host to an exhibition of the artwork of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.Ai weiwei sign

This exciting exhibition is especially relevant to Princeton University Press for two reasons: not only is Blenheim Palace a stone’s throw from Princeton University Press’s European office in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, but Princeton University Press published Ai Weiwei’s ‘Little Black Book’, Weiwei-isms, last year.

Weiwei-isms is a collection of quotes demonstrating Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics and life, carefully selected by Larry Warsh from articles, tweets and interviews.

“Everything is art. Everything is politics.” — Weiwei-isms

Like Weiwei-isms, the exhibition at Blenheim Palace clearly demonstrates Ai Weiwei’s commitment to art as a powerful political statement, as a means of reacting against injustice, and inspiring others to do the same.

Blenheim chandelier“I want people to see their own power.” – Weiwei-isms

This certainly becomes clear as you enter the exhibition. You are given a leaflet which serves as a guide to Ai’s artwork, dispersed throughout the rooms of the palace. Despite this, none of the artwork is signposted and it becomes the visitor’s responsibility to seek it out and take meaning and inspiration from what they see.

The collection brings together pieces created by the artist over the past 30 years. It is especially impressive given that it was curated remotely, Ai Weiwei having been under house arrest since 2011. The old and new are often brought together, with artefacts from the past being reimagined in novel ways. Take, for example, the Han Dynasty vases transformed beyond recognition by car paint or by being ‘rebranded’ with the Coca Cola logo.

Blenheim zodiacHis ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads’ (2010), previously displayed at a year-long exhibition at Princeton University, is also at Blenheim. This work is an ironic interpretation of the bronze zodiac head statues that were looted from the Emperor’s summer palace (Yuan Ming Yuan) in Beijing in 1860.

Other highlights include ‘He Xie’ (2012), a work comprised of 2,300 porcelain crabs on the floor of the Red Drawing Room (‘He Xie’, meaning ‘river crabs’, puns on the Chinese phrase for ‘harmony’).

While some pieces are the first thing you see when you walk into a room, other pieces are integrated more subtly into the sumptuous interiors of Blenheim Palace. The Wave Plate (2014) is seamlessly integrated into the lavish table decoration as the centrepiece in the Salon, and a pair of handcuffs made of Huali wood (2012) – a reminder of Ai Weiwei’s current situation – placed suggestively on the bed in Churchill’s birth room might escape your attention due to the large number of visitors moving from room to room, all engrossed in the same treasure hunt as you.

Blenheim crabsAll in all, the collaboration between Blenheim Palace and Ai Weiwei really does merit a visit. Ai Weiwei’s work is all the more interesting and thought-provoking for being situated in the context of Blenheim Palace and its grounds.

The exhibition at Blenheim Palace highlights the ‘clash’ of the old and new, which is indeed something that is key to much of Ai Weiwei’s work.

“If a nation cannot face its past, it has no future.” – Weiwei-isms

In years to come, the Ai Weiwei exhibition at Blenheim Palace is sure to become part of the artist’s legacy and a poignant reminder of his struggle for justice and truth.

“The art always wins. Anything can happen to me, but the art will stay.” – Weiwei-isms

The exhibition runs until 14th December.

10 facts about penguins that will make you wish you were one of them

JacketIn case you haven’t noticed, penguins have become a cultural phenomenon in recent years. From “March of the Penguins” with Morgan Freeman’s narration, to Happy Feet, Surfs Up, and their respective sequels, penguins are as captivating as ever. (I myself adopted a penguin for a year from the Philadelphia Zoo) And let’s face it, being a human can be overrated and sometimes it’s fun to just imagine what life would be like as another specie. Here are 10 facts about penguins from Tui De Roy’s, Mark Jones’s, and Julie Cornthwaite’s new book Penguins: The Ultimate Guide that will make you wish you were one of them.

Pg. 173

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, Pg. 173

 

1.    Penguins are exceptionally fast swimmers, clocking in at 22mph. Michael Phelps, in comparison, swims at just under 4.5 mph.

2.    Have you ever opened your eyes underwater and felt the sting of the salt or chlorine? Penguins haven’t! Clear nicitating membranes serve as see-through underwater goggles.

3.    Trust issues? Some species of penguins remain monogamous to their mates for more than one season. *Queue “aww”*

4.    Smaller penguin species like the Rockhoppers leave their half-grown chicks huddling together for safety while the grown-ups “grab some grub.” These are called “crèches” and the chicks are supervised by non-breeding penguin neighbors aka baby, or should we say “penguin,” sitters you can trust.

5.    Tired of hearing terrible pick-up lines or getting “poked” on Facebook? Penguins carry out exuberant courtship displays like sky-pointing and “ecstatic greetings.”

6.    They say if you’re ever stranded at sea, don’t drink the water, it’ll only dehydrate you faster, but penguins can process seawater by means of large salt-extracting glands in their foreheads.

 

Pg. 28

Pg. 28

7.    Never play hide and seek with penguins. Their binocular vision is as good as that of owls.

8.    Despite their awkward wobble, Penguins are impressively built. Dual purpose feet allow them to easily walk across wet and slippery surfaces while their surprisingly long (but mostly hidden) legs let them commute several kilometers to their nests.

9.    Wouldn’t you like to live in a world with gender-equality? Penguins do! Males and females rarely show gender differences. In fact, it is the male Emperor Penguin who incubates the egg while the female forages for food.

10.    When it comes to fashion, penguins never have to sacrifice form for function (or the other way around). Their sleek—and chic!—coats consists of around 15 feathers per square centimeter, the densest plumage of any bird.

10 interesting facts about bees

8-7 Bee BookWhen I was asked to write a post about bees, I felt a lump the size of a honeycomb rise in my throat. I thought to myself,  “Bees? Like the things that ruined my 8th birthday party or every trip I’ve ever taken to Rita’s Ices? Those things?!” Yes, those things, but amazingly enough, after reading through Noah Wilson-Rich’s new book The Bee: A Natural History, I can honestly say my opinion of bees has changed, for the better. Here are 10 interesting facts about bees that will hopefully either solidify your love of these insects or foster a new appreciation for them.

1. Thousands of years ago, bees evolved from carnivores to herbivores. Maybe this explains my initial irrational fear of them!

2. There are over 20,000 species of bees who are classified in nine families and further divided by short, medium, and long tongues.

The Bee: A Natural History, Pg. 67

3. Bees can see ultra violet rays. They see the world primarily in purples and blues.

4. Bees have just ten receptors for taste, but 163 receptors for smell.

5. Honey bees communicate via dancing. The Round dance communicates the nearby presence of food. The Waggle dance is used to communicate the location of a food source more than 165ft away from the hive. The direction, distance, and quality of the food is made known through the Waggle. If a threat is detected near the food, another bee will interrupt the dancing bee with a head-butt.

6. In 2000, honey bees provided an estimated $14.6 billion to the US economy.

Pg. 49

7. Only female bees sting.

8. Queen bees and worker bees share the same genes, the only difference is future queen bees are given extra rations of royal jelly.

9. Bees pollinate over 130 fruits and vegetables.

10. Flowering plants developed attractive, scented, and brightly colored flowers once bees changed their foraging preference from animal protein to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Princeton University Press Europe at the Oxford Literary Festival 2014

 

By Hannah Dummett, Princeton University Press Europe intern

McCall SmithLast Sunday marked the end of the 2014 Oxford Literary Festival: “bigger, better and more ambitious than ever”. A whirlwind nine days of authors, talks, photographers, book signings and  lunches, and amongst all of it the Princeton authors met with full auditoriums and avid audiences, often followed by a glass of Prosecco in the green room.

The Soul of the World author Roger Scruton had the audience in stitches of laughter (perhaps not what you’d expect from a talk by a philosopher) as he shed light on his idea of the sacred, at the same time as shamelessly, and hilariously, plugging his new books. Meanwhile, David Edmonds entered a lively discussion with Nigel Warburton. The audience were eager to join in and soon the topic of moral dilemma had led to a debate on the fate of flight MH370.

As one of the festival’s better-known authors, Alexander McCall Smith was hounded by the ‘literary paparazzi’, and one of our publicists was even coerced into being used as a photographer’s assistant (read: prop-holder). Over at Christ Church, Averil Cameron took us back more than 2500 years in time and explained why Byzantium is key to our understanding of other historical periods. Michael Scott argued his own case for the Greek city of Delphi – and gave us all a reason to visit this summer.

His book may be over 800 pages long, but Robert Bartlett kept things succinct and made sure that his audience were keen to discover what the other 700 pages hold in store. He was even awarded a printed apology from the Oxford Mail’s Jeremy Smith after he commented on Bartlett’s “modest attire” while introducing the talk. Husband and wife astronomer/authors Jacqueline and Simon Mitton, both struck down with a virus picked up on a recent cruise, put on a brave face despite their illness and managed to plunge their audience into the depths of the history of the universe, visiting far-away galaxies via new-born stars and black holes.

The increasingly relevant topic of narcissism and self-love was examined by Simon Blackburn, discussing his new book Mirror, Mirror, and political journalist Edmund Fawcett kept the audience listening with an absorbing talk on differing forms of liberalism. To top it off, the “charming, charismatic” Ian Goldin gave an excellent lecture on how the recent financial crash could have an extreme effect on a wide range of factors in our everyday lives. We’ve been out of the office again this week, this time for London Book Fair – the fun is non-stop this month!

 

The 2013 Bird Migration Series

The Warbler GuideAs the first day of fall fast approaches (September 22nd to be exact), bird migrations are already starting. To note this annual phenomenon, we are celebrating during the months of September and October with giveaways, free downloads, online quizzes, gorgeous pictures, and countless blog posts from some of the best bird writers we know.

To kick off this winged adventure, we’re taking to the skies with a Rafflecopter giveaway event!

Our prize package includes a copy of The Warbler GuideThe Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, and How to Be a Better Birder, a pair of Zeiss TERRA binoculars, and the audio companion for The Warbler Guide.

The Crossley ID GuideHow to win? Visit this post for details, but there are numerous ways to win, including liking any of the three books Facebook pages, emailing us at blog@press.princeton.edu, signing up for our email alerts for Bird and Natural History Titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/,or tweeting at @PrincetonNature or at any of the author’s Twitter pages (@IDCrossleyGuide or @The WarblerGuide). The winner will be selected at the beginning of October.

Plus weHow To Be A Better Birder have two free downloads that are available at our blog site:

Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.

Most of all, stay tuned as we continue to post everything you ever wanted to know about bird migrations throughout the fall season.

Can you spot the PUP title in this photo published in Harper’s?

“Don Sapatkin, Deputy Science & Medicine Editor, 6:44pm, 2009.” Photograph by Will Steacy from his series Deadline, which documents the past four years at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

That’s Nancy Lutkehaus’s Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon in the bottom left! The photo ran alongside David Sirota‘s report, “The Only Game in Town,” published in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is the 10th Anniversary Edition of “Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire” by Tui de Roy. Ever since Charles Darwin visited there in 1835, the Galapagos have fascinated us like no other spot on Earth.  Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire (10th Anniversary Edition)This richly illustrated book captures the ethereal, haunting quality of the Galapagos and of the birds and animals that make these islands their home.

This updated tenth-anniversary edition of De Roy’s celebrated book offers an unforgettable photographic tour of the Galapagos. Explore with her the incredible diversity of wildlife and habitats that rank these islands among the most fascinating and exotically beautiful places in the world.

  • Features 245 stunning full-color photographs
  • Includes De Roy’s insightful commentary
  • Showcases some of the award-winning photographer’s finest work
  • Brings the natural wonders of the Galapagos to life
  •  

    “[E]ngaging and inspirational. . . . The author makes one appreciate the fragile beauty of the fiery isles.”–The Press

    Have you LIKE(d) Princeton University Press on Facebook? Yes? Then you’re in this Friday’s book giveaway random draw. If not,  go to our FACEBOOK page and click on LIKE. Each week you will be entered in our book-of-the-week giveaway.

    Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire by Tui de Roy

    BOOK FACT FRIDAY

    FACT: The Harlem riot of 1935 not only signaled the end of the Harlem Renaissance; it made black America’s cultural capital an icon for the challenges of American modernity.

    Harlem Crossroads:
    Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century

    By Sara Blair

    Luring photographers interested in socially conscious, journalistic, and aesthetic representation, post-Renaissance Harlem helped give rise to America’s full-blown image culture and its definitive genre, documentary. The images made there in turn became critical to the work of black writers seeking to reinvent literary forms. Harlem Crossroads examines their deep, sustained engagements with photographic practices. Arguing for Harlem as a crossroads between writers and the image, Sara Blair explores its power for canonical writers, whose work was profoundly responsive to the changing meanings and uses of photographs.

    Read the introduction online at:
    http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i8510.html

    For more books in our sale catalog, please visit:
    http://press.princeton.edu/booksale/

    This Week’s Book Giveaway

    MathematiciansThis week’s book giveaway is Mathematicians by Mariana Cook. All Facebookers that LIKE us are automatically entered to win. The drawing takes place this Friday.

    Mathematicians is a remarkable collection of ninety-two photographic portraits, featuring some of the most amazing mathematicians of our time. Acclaimed photographer Mariana Cook captures the exuberant and colorful personalities of these brilliant thinkers and the superb images are accompanied by brief autobiographical texts written by each mathematician. Together, the photographs and words illuminate a diverse group of men and women dedicated to the absorbing pursuit of mathematics.

    “Mariana Cook has photographed everyone from Francis Crick to Barack and Michelle Obama but has chosen to turn her lens on a slightly more obscure subject for this collection of black-and-white portraits of mathematicians. She photographed 92 in all, some just beginning their careers, others Fields Medal winners with their fame secure. Accompanying the images are personal essays in which each subject reflects on the obsessions, disappointments, and relationships that continue to endear them to their profession. What emerges is a sincere and candid look inside an often insular field.”–Seed Magazine

    Check out the author interview:

    Mathematicians by Mariana Cook.

    BOOK FACT FRIDAY

    Book Fact Friday:  In the 1950s, synchronized flash became a standard feature on amateur cameras.

    The impact of the humble American snapshot has been anything but humble. Any American who takes a snapshot contributes to a compelling and influential genre. Since 1888, when George Eastman introduced the Kodak camera and roll film, the snapshot has not only changed everyday American life and memory; it has also changed the history of fine art photography. The distinctive subject matter and visual vocabulary of the American snapshot–its poses, facial expressions, viewpoints, framing, and themes–influenced modernist photographers as they explored spontaneity, objectivity, and new topics and perspectives. A richly illustrated chronicle of the first century of snapshot photography in America, The Art of the American Snapshot is the first book to examine the evolution of this most common form of American photography. The book shows that among the countless snapshots taken by American amateurs, some works, through intention or accident, continue to resonate long after their intimate context and original meaning have been lost.

    The catalogue of a fall 2007 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, The Art of the American Snapshot reproduces some 250 snapshots drawn from Robert Jackson’s outstanding collection and from a recent gift Jackson made to the museum. Organized decade by decade, this beautiful book traces the evolution of American snapshot imagery and describes how technical, social, and cultural factors affected the look of snapshots at different periods.

    The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978
    Sarah Greenough & Diane Waggoner
    With Sarah Kennel & Matthew S. Witkovsky

    “The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn” on Kottke.org and Ovation TV

    Jason Kottke is featuring some of the stunning photos from Albert Kahn’s massive collection as well as the new 9-part BBC documentary about Kahn’s global project called “The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn”  on his excellent blog.

    Ovation TV will be showing the documentary this week, so ready your sofas or DVRs. Check out the preview video below:

    Portrait-of-the-Day from Mariana Cook’s MATHEMATICIANS

    My pick this week from Mariana Cook’s new book MATHEMATICIANS: An Outer View of the Inner World is a photographic portrait of Fields Medal winner Simon Donaldson.  His area of expertise is differential and algebraic geometry and teaches at the the Imperial College London.  Simon’s subtle smile makes it seem like he knows something that I don’t-and can prove it with those perplexing equations in the background!  Enjoy!